Telecom Toolbox is an online resource for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) professionals and clients to support their use of online tools to reach employment goals.
RTC:Rural’s ongoing research on how to improve VR services revealed three areas in which VR agencies could make changes to positively impact client employment outcomes: use of telecommunication strategies, online career development, and understanding of ethical issues in social media and telecommunications use.
Using telecommunication strategies, such as email, text messaging, video chat, or instant messaging, can help overcome many of the barriers that people with disabilities contend with when it comes to finding employment. These forms of communication can be especially important in rural areas, where opportunities and resources tend to be fewer and far-between. For VR counselors, telecommunication can offer ways to provide services in a timely and cost-efficient manner, and increased communication between counselors and clients has positive impact on employment outcomes.
In this increasingly digital world, tapping into the plethora of online resources can be a game-changer when it comes to finding employment. However, many VR agencies are not fully utilizing current online job-seeking methods. This happens for a variety of reasons, including a lack of counselor training and a lack of ethical guidance in social media use specific to the VR process.
Though telecommunication and social media strategies provide opportunities for VR agencies and clients, they present some unique ethical concerns due to their continually evolving nature. These concerns can leave VR counselors and agencies intimidated or unsure about how to integrate social media into their practice. Adding to this confusion is limited guidance on telecommunication and social media use by professional organizations.
Based on these identified needs for training and guidance, RTC:Rural developed Telecom Toolbox as a resource for both VR counselors and individuals working on their own to find employment. The website is a resource to understand the pros and cons of different social media platforms and how they support job search efforts. It also provides guidance on how to create and manage a professional online profile. Continue reading
Join us on June 22, 2017 at 10:00 am MDT for RTC:Rural’s State of the Science (SOS) webinar exploring how Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) payment models influence the availability of job development services in rural areas. The webinar will help participants understand which models may facilitate better VR outcomes.
While VR agencies use a variety of models to deliver job development services, the majority contract with third-party providers to deliver services such as resume development, job coaching, and job placement. There is evidence, however, that different payment models (such as hourly, fee-for-service, or performance-based benchmarks) influence the availability and quality of job development services in rural communities.
The free “Rural VR Job Development” webinar will explore the relationship between VR payment models, geography, and VR outcomes. The webinar will feature a review of current research from the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural), followed by reactions and perspectives from a panel of experts, including VR directors, field service staff, and researchers. The webinar is designed to provide current and pertinent information that will stimulate a rich discussion among participants.
Check back in the coming weeks for additional information about the Rural VR Job Development webinar. Additional information will also be sent via our eNewsletter.
To sign up for direct notification about our employment and VR research and activities, contact Kerry Morse.
RTC:Rural and our partners have been working for a number of years to promote self-employment among people with disabilities in the vocational rehabilitation system, as it is an option that addresses some of the barriers to employment of living in a rural community.
Starting in 2015, in partnership with the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) and other stakeholders, RTC:Rural researchers developed a self-employment manual, along with policies and procedures to help Utah vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors become better prepared to guide consumers through the self-employment process.
RTC:Rural is currently working to adapt the USOR manual into an online module, incorporating direct feedback from stakeholders to make the material more applicable and accessible to a wider audience, including consumers themselves. Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Associate Director for the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities and the Director of Employment Research at RTC:Rural, is leading the project.
Previous research by RTC:Rural has shown that self-employment is a viable option for many people with disabilities, but is an underutilized option within the VR system. Reasons for this vary, but include VR counselors feeling ill equipped to help consumers determine if business ideas are feasible, and concerns over case costs, business failure, and income potential. The self-employment module aims to alleviate some of those concerns and provide VR counselors with the tools they need to help consumers achieve successful employment outcomes. Continue reading
RTC:Rural is proud that our researchers were invited to contribute to this article, which was published in The Conversation on March 17, 2017, and subsequently on PBS News, US News & World Report, and Salon.
Authors: Brian Thiede, Pennsylvania State University; Lillie Greiman, The University of Montana; Stephan Weiler, Colorado State University; Steven C. Beda, University of Oregon, and Tessa Conroy, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Editor’s note: We’ve all heard of the great divide between life in rural and urban America. But what are the factors that contribute to these differences? We asked sociologists, economists, geographers and historians to describe the divide from different angles. The data paint a richer and sometimes surprising picture of the U.S. today.
1. Poverty is higher in rural areas
Discussions of poverty in the United States often mistakenly focus on urban areas. While urban poverty is a unique challenge, rates of poverty have historically been higher in rural than urban areas. In fact, levels of rural poverty were often double those in urban areas throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
While these rural-urban gaps have diminished markedly, substantial differences persist. In 2015, 16.7 percent of the rural population was poor, compared with 13.0 percent of the urban population overall – and 10.8 percent among those living in suburban areas outside of principal cities.
Catherine Ipsen, Ph.D., Director of Employment Research at RTC:Rural and Associate Director of the Rural Institute on Inclusive Communities (RIIC) recently returned from the 2016 Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) conference in Washington DC. At the conference, Ipsen delivered a poster presentation to approximately 40 attendees, titled “Factors Associated with Premature Exit from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services.”
Catherine Ipsen presenting her poster “Factors Associated with Premature Exit from Vocational Rehabilitation Services” at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) 2016 conference in Washington DC.
The conference, “Navigating Change: Building our Future Together,” focused on strong collaborations across programs and political parties to build a future where people with disabilities are able to participate fully in all aspects of life.
The presentation focused on understanding the reasons VR consumers drop out of the VR program before completing services. Ipsen & Goe (2015) tracked 355 consumers as they progressed through VR services. Over the 18-month study period, approximately one third of consumers left because they met their goals, a third left for personal reasons (such as their health or family issues), and a third left because they were dissatisfied with services.
In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are showcasing the Telecom Toolbox, a website and blog dedicated to career development using social media and online methods. The Telecom Toolbox is a product of RTC:Rural research about Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) professional’s use of social media. While the internet has become the primary resource for job seekers and employers, VR agencies are not fully utilizing current job seeking methods. In fact, research shows that online career development practices are partially limited in VR due to counselor unpreparedness to use social media.
To address this barrier, the Telecom Toolbox includes specific ideas for how consumers and counselors can use online tools and social media platforms in a job search process. These include strategies to: Continue reading
We recently expanded the Telecom Toolbox to include social media strategies for job seeking. The revamped Toolbox includes sections on online communication, online career development, and ethics.
The Communication section provides tips for using email, text messaging, and video to improve consumer / VR counselor communication. Research shows frequent contact with consumers improves VR outcomes (Ipsen & Goe, 2016) and online methods provide additional avenues for this communication to take place.
Building an online presence can be overwhelming, but having positive search results is increasingly important when searching for a job. The Online Career Development section covers a variety strategies for using different social media platforms during the job search process. For instance, LinkedIn can be used to showcase professional accomplishments, network with colleagues, blog content related to your field and even apply for a job. The first step to use LinkedIn effectively is creating an appealing profile. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can help create an online identity as well. For example, if you were a landscaper, you could use Instagram to share before and after pictures of a yard you landscaped which illustrates “proof of performance”. Twitter can be used to network and ask questions of industry leaders, while Facebook can be used to cast a wide net for leads when searching for a job. The section also includes strategies for managing “digital dirt”, effectively utilizing job boards, researching employers, keyword optimization and researching employers are explored as well.
As social media becomes pervasive, so does examples of missteps. There are many things to consider when consumers, counselors and VR agencies use social media and the Ethics section of the Telecom Toolbox helps navigate this brave new world.
We are excited about the changes in the Telecom Toolbox and look forward to updating the website as social media use continues to grow and evolve.